NewsHour: Supreme Court Decision on Women at VMI – June 26, 1996

MARGARET WARNER: Tonight we examine two of the day’s high court rulings. The first involves the all-male Virginia Military Institute. On a seven to one decision, the court ruled that the state of Virginia may no longer exclude women from admission to VMI. We get more on that from NewsHour regular Stuart Taylor, correspondent for the "American Lawyer" and "Legal Times." Welcome, Stuart. What was the basic–what was the basis for the court’s ruling in this case?

STUART TAYLOR, The American Lawyer: The court ruled that it violates the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment for VMI–for the state of Virginia, I should say, to deny to women what it called the unique and extraordinary benefits that men get from attending Virginia Military Institute, a 150-year-old institution with a unique prestigious role in Virginia life.

MS. WARNER: And what was the majority’s reasoning in coming to this, the majority opinion written by, I gather, Justice Ginsberg?

MR. TAYLOR: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was a crusader for equal rights for women before she came on the court, basically reasoned that women should have all the opportunities men do in Virginia and elsewhere unless there’s what she called an exceedingly persuasive justification why they should not. She reviewed all the justifications Virginia had advanced for keeping VMI all male and rejected them. In particular, she said there are some women who could benefit from a VMI type education, which is sort of a boot camp style approach to education. Even if there aren’t many, there are some, and they should have that opportunity. She also rejected the state’s argument that it would destroy the boot camp style approach VMI uses to admit women.

MS. WARNER: And so VMI, of course, had tried to start a separate program for women at a nearby women’s college. What did the court say about that?